KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 4, 2008):
The High Court here today set Jan 20 to hear an application by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin for the criminal defamation case against him to be transferred back to the Magistrate's Court.
Judicial Commissioner Zainal Azman Ab. Aziz also gave two weeks, until Dec 19, to Raja Petra and the prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Anselm Charles Fernandis to file in written submissions on the matter.
Earlier, defence counsel K.Chandra in applying for the transfer of the case, which was supposed to be heard in the Sessions Court today, had also cited that lead defence counsel, Manjeet Singh Dhillon, would not be able to be present as he was undergoing health checks in London.
Raja Petra was charged in the Magistrate's Court here on July 17 with defaming the deputy prime minister's wife, Datin Rosmah Mansor, Acting Colonel Abdul Aziz Buyong and his wife, Col Norhayati Hassan, in a statutory declaration he made at the Civil High Court in Jalan Duta here at 10.25am on June 18.
On Aug 15, Magistrate Nazran Mohd Sham allowed DPP Amir Nasruddin's application to have the case transferred to the Sessions Court on the grounds of public interest.
In the initial proceedings at the Sessions Court, Manjeet Singh made a preliminary objection and applied for a Sessions Court order for the case to be returned to the Magistrate's Court on the ground that the Magistrate's Court order to transfer the case to the Sessions Court contravened Section 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Raja Petra, the editor of the Malaysia-Today portal, had also filed an originating motion at the High Court on Nov 25 for the case to be transferred back to the Magistrate's Court or have it referred to the Federal Court to iron out constitutional issues.
On Nov 28, Sessions Court Judge Mohamad Sekeri Mamat ruled that he would leave it to the High Court to make a decision whether to have the case transferred back to the Magistrate's Court.
If found guilty, Raja Petra is liable to be sentenced to two years jail or fined or both, for each of the counts of defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code. --BERNAMAA